Following up a story I wrote about in February, The Oregonian reports that federal regulators have cleared Portland Adventist Medical Center of wrongdoing in a high-profile case in which a man died of a heart attack in the hospital’s parking lot.
As regular readers will recall, 61-year-old Birgilio Marin-Fuentes suffered a heart attack as he drove into Adventist’s parking facility on February 10. He crashed his car into a wall, but lay in the vehicle unnoticed for more than 20 minutes despite the presence of surveillance cameras in the facility and the fact that the emergency room door was only a short distance away.
Police eventually arrived to help the stricken man. There is some dispute over how the hospital acted at this point. Some accounts say a police officer who ran to the emergency room was rebuffed by desk staff there and told the emergency needed to be telephoned in before hospital staff could respond – despite the emergency being on their own property. Hospital spokespersons have rejected that version of events. Martin-Fuentes died shortly after being moved inside the hospital building.
A federal investigation has now cleared the hospital of wrongdoing, but it is important to understand that this relatively narrow decision does not necessarily close the case in legal terms. According to The Oregonian, the federal review, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services, found that no federal laws were violated. That review, however, was relatively narrow. Specifically, it addressed the 1986 law that “requires all Medicare participating hospitals with emergency departments to treat any critically ill patients on their premises, including parking lots,” the newspaper notes.
In this potential case of Oregon medical malpractice, however, the hospital’s responsibility may extend beyond a narrow reading of federal law. While it is true that Adventist eventually offered care to the accident victim the manner of their response – particularly the alleged overly technical attention to procedures designed to alert the hospital to accident victims across town as opposed to in their own parking garage – raises issues of both ethics and civil law. Put simply, the fact that Adventist violated no federal law, narrowly defined, does not mean that they may not still be responsible for a wrongful hospital death or case or Oregon medical malpractice on their property. A Portland hospital death and medical malpractice attorney can advise family members caught in unthinkable situations like this one of the best way to obtain justice when a narrow reading of federal criminal laws does not adequately address the harm suffered by victims and their families.
Oregon Public Broadcasting: Adventist passes review in parking lot death